Don't count the Angels out on Lackey and Figgins

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CBS’s Scott Miller talks to Angels’ GM Tony Reagins who says that we shouldn’t assume that John Lackey and Chone Figgins have played their last games in Anaheim:

While that still could happen, Angels GM Tony Reagins said Wednesday that there’s “no question” the club intends to attempt to retain Lackey, as well as leadoff man Chone Figgins. Both are high atop the desirables this winter in a weak free-agent class. . .

. . . Reagins said the Angels have been in touch with Lackey’s representative, Steve Hilliard, since the season ended. “The communication has been good thus far,” Reagins said. “I think that’s what’s important.” As for Figgins, whom the Philadelphia Phillies and others have expressed interest in, Reagins says that there have been “positive lines of communication.”

I’m not sure why everyone has discounted Anaheim’s chances of re-signing Lackey and Figgins.  As of now, the Angels have a little north of $70 million in guaranteed 2010 money to Torii Hunter, Gary Matthews, Jr., Bobby Abreu, Brian Fuentes, Scott Kazmir, Scot Shields, Ervin Santana, and Juan Rivera.  They have 10 or so pre-arb players who made less than half a million last year. Most of them will get raises, but even then, that puts the team at, what, the $95 million range, tops?  Spare change rounds out the roster.

The Angels had a payroll of $113 million in 2009 and Reagins tells Miller that he expects it will be similar in 2010.  Assuming there’s at least a bit of give in those numbers, it’s at least plausible to suggest that the Angels could sign both Lackey and Figgins to long term deals without significant hometown discounts.  Yes, that means walking away from Vlad, but maybe the Angels do that anyway, covering the DH slot with Abreu and Rivera and whoever needs rest at any given time.  And let us not forget: Gary Matthews wants out of Anaheim. No, it’s not likely the Angels will find someone dumb enough to pick up a significant portion of his salary, but maybe a little of it goes away.  Crazier things have happened.

Maybe that’s a stretch, but they certainly could be players for one of those guys, and any hot stove speculation that doesn’t at least acknowledge Anaheim’s chances at signing either Figgins or Lackey — or maybe even both — is missing part of the story.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.